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Study says expanding Medicaid could save Florida money

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that the Medicaid expansion authorized under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is optional for states, Florida has a decision to make. Florida lawmakers have the option of adding roughly 950,000 people to the Medicaid rolls, with the federal government covering most of the intial costs.

Gov. Rick Scott has repeatedly expressed reservations about allowing more people access to this health insurance program for the needy and the poor. Each year Medicaid takes a greater percentage of the state's budget, he points out, and he worries the expansion could ultimately burden the state even futher.

But that's not so, according to a report released today by researchers at the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University. The study concluded that Florida could expand Medicaid and add between 800,000 and 1.3 million uninsured Floridians to the rolls "without assuming any new net costs."

In fact, the researchers determined the state could save up to $100 million a year because allowing people to join Medicaid would reduce the financial burden on other state-funded safety net programs.

“It is time for Florida’s elected officials to take a serious look at this option," said Joan Alker, Research Associate Professor at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute. "Our study found that the state can actually save money while ensuring that a million Floridians can get the health coverage they desperately need. And this decision affects all Floridians as Florida’s hospitals will be put in jeopardy if the state does not move forward.”

This report is part of a series of educational briefings on Florida's Medicaid program that were commissioned and funded by Jacksonville's Jessie Ball duPont Fund and the Winter Park Health Foundation.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the new costs for expanding Medicaid during the first three years and has agreed to foot 90 percent or more of it until 2020.

But Scott has said he worries about the burden on the state budget beyond that period. He points out that the state's current Medicaid expenses are a third of the total budget, $20 billion, even though Florida's eligibility rules are stricter than most states.

But health experts and patients rights organizations say many of the state's 3.8 million uninsured residents will continue to receive care they can't pay for in hospital emergency rooms without the Medicaid expansion, costs are are passed down to other Floridians in the form of higher insurance premiums.

Click  here to read the report.